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Poster: robthewordsmith Date: Jan 4, 2007 8:03am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Jack Straw's World

Jack Straw seems to be a favourite of several forum members. It's one of those songs that can get under your skin like no other. In my opinion a good Jack Straw can kick just about any other song you care to mention in the nuts. Why should this be?

I think it’s because it’s like a movie played out in five minutes or so that drops us right in the middle of the lives of Jack and Shannon. What’s been happening to them that’s going to ‘keep them on the run’? Listen to the Jack Straw from McArthur Court 01-22-78. In the instrumental break the guitars roar like the hounds of hell in pursuit of Jack and Shannon before Weir yells out ‘Jack Straw from Wichita cut his buddy down…’ and you can hear the anger and the fear and despair that’s led Jack to that terrible point. It’s one of the most powerful things I’ve ever heard anywhere.

Who is Jack Straw? Why do we care about him? Jack is you and he’s me, the straw tossed in the wind trying to make choices that may turn out good but may just as easily turn out bad. ‘Now the die is shaken, now the die must fall…’ He can find temporary solace - ‘we can share the women, we can share the wine’ – but Jack’s world is a dark world where evil deeds may be committed just to survive – ‘There ain’t a winner in this game.’ And really, Jack’s world isn’t so different from our world – recent events in the forum have shown how we can all feel the need to 'settle one old score; one small point of pride' every now and then. And maybe that’s why we feel so right at home in this marvellous song.

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Poster: Earl B. Powell Date: Jan 4, 2007 9:18am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

Here's a link for the annotated lyrics...always interesting, given Hunters penchant for the ambiguous.

http://arts.ucsc.edu/gdead/agdl/jstraw.html

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Poster: robthewordsmith Date: Jan 4, 2007 9:34am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

Thanks for that, Earl. I was trying to resist looking there - hoping for some fresh thoughts on a great song.

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Poster: sydthecat2 Date: Jan 4, 2007 12:12pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

And then, of course, he wrote Samba in the Rain. And the rest is history.

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Poster: ducats Date: Jan 4, 2007 12:38pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

surprised nobody mentioned the best are when they were each singing their own portion of the song - and the best line being;

"We can share what we got of yours cause we done shared all of mine."

For me this line has always summed up the bus - a place that the music got you to board - and piecing that together I'll leave to the wordsmith guy.

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Poster: robthewordsmith Date: Jan 4, 2007 1:27pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

I think you have Jack backwards, Ducat. If he got on the bus it would be to steal your wallet.

'I just jumped the watchman
Right outside the fence
Took his ring, four bucks in change
Now ain't that heaven sent?'

Jack Straw isn't about sharing - it's about taking what you need to survive. "We done shared all of mine' - you've taken everything I have, now it's your turn.

'Ain't no place a man can hide, Shannon'

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Poster: ducats Date: Jan 4, 2007 3:32pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

If Jack was stranded with another and they had a limited food supply are you saying he would'nt share?

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Poster: robthewordsmith Date: Jan 5, 2007 1:07am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

It would depend on who that other person was - and what Jack had to gain from the transaction. Life is cheap here -
'Cut down a man in cold blood, Shannon
Might as well be me'

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Poster: William Tell Date: Jan 4, 2007 8:17am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

I have to agree...for me, though, it was having seen Tucson by the morning light, in 1970, as a very impressionable kid, listening to Neil Young's Nowhere album, and being changed for life. This song always reminded me of the time and place...

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Poster: Earl B. Powell Date: Jan 4, 2007 4:50pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

Like many other bluegrass or traditionals in the vein of "Dreadful Wind & Rain" - Jack Straw is about how we insert moral relativism into the dirtball circumstances we are faced with. Even when the morality, in this case, evil, is of our own choosing.

"Ain't that Heaven sent?" key phrase for the rewards of robbing the dropped watchman.

"One small point of pride." Another stab at justifying misplaced vanity.

Even the definition of jackstraw as a being a strawman or one without substance upholds the theme of a misdirected code of honor or as I mentioned earlier, moral relativism.

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Poster: robthewordsmith Date: Jan 5, 2007 1:20am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

Nicely said, Earl. It's all about the expediency of survival, morality at the edge.

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Poster: Robony Date: Jan 4, 2007 8:28am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

You are indeed the wordsmith. Very well said. The images you paint for Jack and Shannon are typical of the best of Hunter/Garcia. They had the unique ability to put the listener in the moment and color the scene with music. Doesn't everyone have a mental picture of the cabin and the card game in Dire Wolf or the docks and August in Wharf? As for JS, you're right the best versions for me are the ones with the building intensity in the solo, culminating in the frantic, desperate and urgent > Jack Straw from Wichita cut his buddy down! Absolute magic.



This post was modified by Robony on 2007-01-04 16:28:04

This post was modified by Robony on 2007-01-04 16:28:32

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Poster: robthewordsmith Date: Jan 4, 2007 8:36am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

Thank you, Robony. Hunter has an amazing ability to paint a whole world with just a few well chosen words. It's a rare and wonderful gift.

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Poster: skuzzlebutt Date: Jan 4, 2007 8:33am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

I've always been impressed that the same guy who could come up with lyrics for stuff like "Chine Cat Sunflower" and "Eyes of the World" could turn on a dime and pen the narratives for stuff like "JackStraw", "Candyman", "Loser" etc.

For a hippy, he sure writes about guns, booze, and killin' a lot. I love the way he can seemingly tap this vein of old-school Americana without being confined to it.

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Poster: robthewordsmith Date: Jan 4, 2007 8:43am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

Sometimes seems like Hunter knows you better than you know yourself the way he taps right in. Spooky in a nice sort of way!

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Poster: skuzzlebutt Date: Jan 4, 2007 8:19am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

Good point about the song's lyrical appeal possibly springing from the fact that we all of a sudden find ourselves in the middle of this crazy story, right there on the run with these wine and women sharin', watchman jumpin', score settlin', train catchin', buddy cuttin' down dudes. There's quite a bit going on here.



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Poster: robthewordsmith Date: Jan 4, 2007 8:34am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

You're right there really is quite a bit going on here. Maybe one of Hunter's richest songs?

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Poster: skuzzlebutt Date: Jan 4, 2007 8:39am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

Easily.

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Poster: William Tell Date: Jan 4, 2007 8:40am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

Agreed.

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Poster: wineland Date: Jan 4, 2007 9:03am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

Seconded.

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Poster: bluedevil Date: Jan 4, 2007 9:35am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

The motion is carried

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Poster: wineland Date: Jan 4, 2007 9:12am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

Rob - That Eugene show is spectacular. I have the "Sick Bits Vol. 4" matrix of that show. In fact I have 14 Sick Bits that haven't been released on Lossless Legs. Do you or anyone know how to upload shows to Lossless Legs. I have only downloaded and I feel it is my time to give back.

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Poster: robthewordsmith Date: Jan 4, 2007 9:35am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

Wineland - afraid I'm a torrent-free zone until I get my hands on some better computer equipment. I'm sure others will give you a helping hand though!

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Poster: wineland Date: Jan 4, 2007 9:40am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

No worries. As with all computer related stuff if only I took the time to read the instructions I could figure it out. Listening to 1.22.78 right now and the Peggy-O is fantastic.

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Poster: orchiddoctor Date: Jan 4, 2007 8:22am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

What I admire about Jack Straw--aside from how well the two Bobs could work together and how there are different voices in the song--is how it fit into that unique time when the Dead were writing and singing about this vast country--especially the old west. Ever notice how many states they covered?

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Poster: caspersvapors Date: Jan 4, 2007 5:56pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jack Straw's World

even though they dont have the monster jam I love early Jack Straws, especially 72. IMO the sound of the band then totally captured the mood and tone of the song. IT REALLY DOES play out like in a movie in my head when I hear those.

Check out the one on Hundred Year Hall and see if you get what I mean, Jerry's opening lick sets the perfect tone for the rest of the song

but I also love 1/22/78

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